The tarsal tunnel refers to the passageway inside the ankle through which the posterior tibial nerve— a branch of the sciatic nerve responsible for innervating the muscles of the lower leg and foot— passes.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) is a condition that results from the narrowing of the tarsal tunnel, and consequently, the compression of the posterior tibial nerve. Discussed below are the key aspects of tarsal tunnel syndrome, specifically its symptoms, potential causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
Stabbing foot pain, burning sensation, tingling, and numbness are some of the common symptoms of TTS. The pain associated with the condition is typically felt around the ankle and the toes. As the condition progresses, pain may also be felt during rest.
Inward pressure associated with flat feet or any medical condition that causes inflammation, including ankle sprain, arthritis, diabetes, varicose veins, ganglion cysts, and bone spurs, can cause the tarsal tunnel to narrow and apparently compress the posterior tibial nerve.
It can be challenging to diagnose TTS through symptom assessment alone, given the fact that the condition produces symptoms that overlap those of other foot conditions.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, your best bet is to consult a foot doctor (podiatrist), who will carry out a comprehensive evaluation, which will likely include a review of your medical history, a physical exam, and some medical imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Based on their findings, your podiatrist will usually first explore conservative interventions, such as anti-inflammatories, bracing/immobilization, custom orthotics, and lifestyle changes. However, if your symptoms persist after an extensive course of these treatment approaches, your podiatrist may recommend a surgical procedure known as tarsal tunnel release to address the problem altogether.
Tarsal tunnel release involves your foot doctor creating an incision behind your ankle to access the posterior tibial nerve and release the ligament that forms the roof of the tarsal tunnel, thereby taking the pressure off the nerve.
Dangers of Untreated Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
If TTS is left untreated, its symptoms can worsen, and the pressure on the posterior tibial nerve can permanently damage it. The tingling that you experience, which indicates nerve irritation, can result in muscle weakness and loss of motor function, and consequently, in fall accidents. As nerve damage progresses, you can lose sensation in your lower leg and foot.
Foot Doctor in San Antonio, Boerne, Hondo, Floresville, Kenedy, Uvalde, Live Oak, TX
If you experience the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome, visit us here at The Podiatry Group of South Texas. As one of the trusted providers of high-quality foot-and-ankle care in the entire region, we have helped scores of patients quickly get back to doing the things they love, so let us help you, too!